A small but tremendously decorated station in the centre of Porto (see map). Its walls are covered with traditional Portuguese tile work called azulejos showing scenes of the Portuguese history.
Azulejos is painted tin-glazed ceramic tile work widespread in Portugal and Spain. In Portugal, you will find them outdoors and indoors on walls in private and public buildings. (For somebody, who is used to tiles only as decoration in bathrooms or on floors as in many other European countries, it is a bit unusual). The variety of azulejos reaches from simple reproduced white-blue tiles to big detailed pictures that are indeed real pieces of art (like those at Sao Bento station).
As far as I can recall, a similar kind of tile work has been traditionally produced in some other European countries (like Italy and Netherlands). Nevertheless, the tile work in Europe origins from Moorish culture and first it was applied on the Iberian peninsula.
If you want to know more about azulejos and during your Portugal journey stay in Lisbon, just go to the National Tile Museum (>>>). It is located in the former Convent of Madre Deus (convents were banished from Portugal some time ago, so it is a state museum). Even if you are not an art fan, following the visiting route you will see how the art of azulejos and its technique developed with time. By the way, inside the gallery you will have to cross a chapel. Opulent and rich. Shining with gold, with beautiful paintings and tile work pictures on walls and ceilings.
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